FARMERVILLE — Emerging from a sea of bodies, quarterback Hayes Crockett lunged across the goal line on a 2-point conversion with 13 seconds remaining as Sterlington squeezed past Union Parish 18-17 Friday night in a classic District 2-3A opener.
Down 10-3 at intermission, the Farmers came out strong in the second half, taking a 17-10 lead on freshman Trey Holly’s 8-yard run with 2:13 remaining.
“We know how to win,” has become a frequently-repeated line around the Sterlington fieldhouse. It’s more than a catchy slogan. The Panthers really do expect to win. Just when it looked like they weren’t going to Friday night, they found a way. In a matter of two minutes, Sterlington flipped the outcome behind a sequence of events, namely "The Drive," "The Catch," "The Decision" and "The Play."
After relinquishing the lead on Holly’s second touchdown of the evening, Layton Rainbolt returned the kickoff 22 yards to the 35.
An incomplete pass later, Crockett kept for 12 yards and a first down at the 47.
Crockett was able to avoid a first down sack, but was stopped for no gain by Jason Hausley, and the Panthers were forced to burn a timeout with the clock down to 1:30.
Crockett then scrambled for nine yards, and Zach Crain carried for three yards and first down at the Union 41.
On second-and-10, Crockett caught his own deflected pass in the backfield, resulting in a loss of seven.
With the Panthers facing third-and-17, Layton Rainbolt’s 27-yard reception was good for a first down at the 21, but the Panthers were down to their final 27 seconds.
Crockett then found Rainbolt, who took a hit across the middle and held on for a 15-yard reception at the six.
Coming out of a timeout, Union was flagged half the distance for 12 men on the field, setting up first-and-goal from the 3.
Freshman tight end John Barr then worked his way nine yards deep into the middle of the end zone.
“Hayes has thrown the ball to me before in practice, but I really wasn’t expecting the ball to come my way in that situation,” Barr admitted.
Was he ever wrong. Neither Barr nor the capacity crowd at Doc Elliot Field will soon forget his first varsity reception.
“I was open, and I just waited for Hayes to look my way,” Barr said. “Once he did, I just went up and got it. I knew I had to catch it so we could win the game.”
Barr said the clutch catch was sheer reaction.
“I didn’t have time to think about it,” Barr said.
While the touchdown catch never crossed Barr’s mind, he never doubted the Panthers would score on their final drive.
“We think we’re supposed to win,” Barr said.
There would be no overtime. Sterlington coach Lee Doty would play for the win.
Doty’s confidence in his offense was understandable, considering the Panthers had just marched 65 yards on 10 plays in two minutes.
Looking at the entire picture, Union was beginning to wear down Sterlington’s defense behind its power running game.
“They were driving it down our throats,” Doty said. “That had a lot to do with why I decided to go for two.”
It would all come down to one play. The question was which play?
Crockett didn’t like the original call.
“We had a different play called,” Crockett said. “I wanted to put it all on my shoulders.”
With Crockett lobbying for the ball, the call was changed.
“You have a 6-4, 230-pound quarterback, and three yards to go,” Doty said. “He’s wanting the ball, and saying, ‘I’ll get it,’ over-and-over. Those are the type of things that make Hayes a D-1 guy.”
Crockett added to the drama by waving his arms to the Sterlington crowd as the Panthers lined up for the 2-point conversion.
For a split second, it appeared that Crockett would score easily on the quarterback lead. But the hole collapsed quickly as Crockett was swarmed by black jerseys around the 2-yardline. Keeping his legs churning, Crockett fought his way through what resembled a rugby-style scrum and pushed his way across the goal line.
When asked to discuss the 2-point play, Crockett never gave a direct answer. Instead, he credited his teammates.
“Our offensive line played a great game, and our receivers came up big,” Crockett said. “Everybody played together. We’re starting to click like we did last year.”
Tailback Dallas Reagor, who missed the game with an injury, made sure Crockett received his just props.
“Crockett for President,” Reagor yelled as the final horn sounded.
Sterlington won the toss and opted to start the game on offense.
Crain capped an impressive eight-play, 67-yard drive by bowling over a would-be tackler at the line of scrimmage en route to a 14-yard touchdown scamper.
Drawing the start in place of Reagor, Crain generated 97 yards on 17 carries.
“Zach had a heck of a game,” Doty said. “We feel comfortable with him back there. That’s another reason we held Dallas out. Dallas could have played tonight, but Zach had a good week of practice. We felt like we had a chance with Zach in there, and all we wanted was a chance.”
With linebacker Colin Foy involved in stopping three straight running plays, the Farmers opened the game with an empty possession.
Derailed by penalties, the Panthers second series fizzled at the Union 31.
Holly’s 42-yard run set up Smith’s 23-yard field goal as the Farmers shaved the difference to 7-3 early in the second quarter.
Adam Parnell covered the ensuing onside kick to give the Panthers favorable field position at their own 47.
Hixson Street’s 30-yard reception and an 18-yard run by Crockett led to Green’s 21-yard field goal midway through the second quarter.
Sterlington would maintain the 10-3 lead at halftime.
Union leveled at 10-10 on Holly’s 2-yard run with 1:18 to go in the third period.
Next Man Up: Sophomore Luke Handy filled in admirably at Sam linebacker after starter Seth Temple left the game in the second quarter with an ankle injury.
“Luke’s a heck of a football player. That’s why he gets those snaps,” Doty said. “He’s another one of those young guys we feel good about. At one time tonight, we had so many young guys on the field, we were almost in panic mode.”
Next: Sterlington (5-0, 1-0) is at home vs. Wossman (4-2, 0-0) on Friday night, while the Farmers (3-3, 0-1) open a three-game road swing at Richwood (1-4, 0-1).
By the Numbers
SHS ……………………………. UP
15 ……… First downs …………. 10
34-184 … Rushes-yards ………46-215
101 ……. Passing yards ……… 53
17-8-0 … Passes (A-C-I) ……… 9-5-1
3-36 …… Punts-avg. ………….. 3-23.6
3-1 …….. Fumbles-lost ……….. 0-0
6-50 …… Penalties-yards …….. 3-12
Sterlington … 7 3 0 8—18
Union ……….. 0 3 7 7—17
S—Zach Crain 14-run (Jacob Green kick), 9:15
U—Cade Smith 23-FG, 9:56
S—Green 21-FG, 6:17
U—Trey Holly 2-run (Smith kick), 1:13
U—Holly 8-run (Smith kick), 2:13
S—John Barr 3-pass from Hayes Crockett (Crockett run), 0:13
RUSHING—Sterlington: Crain 17-97-1, Crockett 12-68, Jordan Townsend 5-19. Union: Holly 26-149-2, Trent Ginn 10-39.
PASSING—Sterlington: Crockett 17-8-0-101-1. Union: Ginn 9-5-1-53-0.
RECEIVING—Sterlington: Layton Rainbolt 4-56, Hixson Street 2-47, Barr 1-3-1. Union: Holly 2-23, Jaylon Glass 1-22.